Preparing the Osprey Way
“To be prepared is half the victory”
In order to optimize performance, one must be thoroughly prepared for the challenge ahead. Preparation must be managed and thought out. Every step must be carefully considered and understood; no step should be taken for sake of taking a step. Nowhere are these concepts more evident than in the sport of swimming. In swimming there are ways of training that can be more beneficial to the athlete than other forms of training. Often in swimming, there is a tendency for more training to replace smart training. Additionally, the importance of the mental aspect of swimming cannot be underestimated or ignored. Coincidentally, mental training should never be ignored in preparing for competition and optimized performance. At Osprey Aquatics this full package of both mental and physical training is brought to the table. The coaches at Osprey address all aspects of physical readiness while working to manage the mental well being of the swimmers, preparing them for all stages of the swimmer’s career.
The first aspect of physical training in preparing the Osprey way is technique. Efficiency is the product of good technique, while waste in the result of bad technique. The fittest swimmer in the world will never succeed if that swimmers stroke is inefficient. An appreciable at Osprey Aquatics is devoted to technique and technical improvement. The amount of time that should be spent on technique is inversely proportional to age. As swimmers age, habits and stroke tendencies will develop and become semi-permanent. When a swimmer leaves Osprey Aquatics for college swimming he or she will be prepared technically to endured the rigors of college training. The benefit of this technical preparation from Osprey can be seen even at the NCAA Division I level, where large, incredibly fit individuals compete with poor strokes. Therefore Osprey’s early development of technique is a cornerstone of training and preparation.
Another element of Osprey preparation is succeed in the water is yardage. There are many factors which determine how much swimmers need to swim at different ages. Obviously younger swimmers swim much less, focusing largely on technique. As the swimmer develops a fragile balance becomes apparent, for which the Osprey coaches have an appreciation for. There is an inescapable truth that to swim fast, yards must be swum. The work has to be put in; this may sound harsh but in many respects this lesson is true of any endeavor. An individual has to go out and work for what they want. Conversely, it is possible to put in too much work. Large practices stack together into big weeks, big months, and big years make swimmers more susceptible to injury and mental burn out. If a swimmer swims ten thousand plus yards every practice ten times a week, body parts will begin to fail. When the body begins to break down too much technique diminishes, not only decreasing efficiency but making the body further susceptible to injury. Burn out, or lack of desire to swim, can make the sport not fun and sap the swimmers concentration. At Osprey Aquatics, each coach works to walk this line with every swimmer, keeping every swimmer at the highest level while also keeping swimmers motivated.
Another aspect managed in the Osprey preparation is intensity. Any swimmer knows that five thousand easy and five thousand with twenty one hundreds best average are completely different practices. Intensity is necessary to prepare the body to work at the highly anaerobic levels required to race. Racing is also fueled by a base created by varying intensities. The Osprey coaches manage these intensities in order to prepare the swimmers. One of the best vehicles used by Osprey for managing these intensities is the use of a tempo trainer. Tempo trainers allow the coach to control the swimmer’s training with extreme precision. If the technique is implemented as described above, the stroke rates dictated by the tempo trainer will manage the intensity of the swimmer, preparing the swimmer to race at a high level. The tempo trainer can help not only maintain the swimmer’s intensity but also allow the Osprey coaches to govern the swimmers intensity. Too much high intensity training can exhaust a swimmer mentally and physically, as well as leading to lower level “high” intensity training. Asking a swimmer to swim twenty one-hundreds sprint will lead to the majority of swimmers subconsciously pacing themselves and doing twenty one hundreds at a lower intensity level. This use of the lower intensity will lead to races that are swum at a governed intensity. At the same time the most important aspect of physical fitness and training in swimming is to be easy and under control on easy swimming, and to be explosive and fast when racing. A swimmer at Osprey will never be asked to do sets beyond the scope of a race. The swimmers at Osprey are given what they need to prepare for their optimal distances and meet days and nothing more, preventing subconscious intensity management.
The mental side of swimming is by far the lesser known side of swimming to the greater swimming world. The mind of a swimmer is very similar to a wild horse. If the mind can be controlled and utilized, it can be the swimmers greatest asset; conversely if the mind is not controlled it will buck and fight at every turn, becoming the swimmers worst enemy. Coaches and swimmers must work constantly to corral the mind. A mentally strong swimmer will tend to stay a mentally strong swimmer, making the early development of mental toughness a key to good swimming. Osprey begins to address the mental side with things like keeping a logbook of progress and thoughts. The Osprey coaches know that the past successes and steps forward generate confidence, a powerful mental ally. The Osprey logbook, or “blue book” allows for a place for thoughts to be developed and manifest, allowing the mental process to be examined and develop. Another important aspect in mental development is the swimmer-coach relationship. A coach who cares the way the way the Osprey coaches do is first and foremost. The Osprey coaches manage the mental well being of his or her swimmers. They are positive but provide tough love. The coaches know never to speak in absolutes, making the swimmer aware of the fact that no change or downturn is permanent and no success should completely satisfy the swimmer. Additionally, at Osprey, swimmers are treated as individuals as oppose to part of the group. Some swimmers may need to hear harsher criticism, while other swimmers may need a more positive voice. Pulling swimmers aside and talking to them one-on-one, as individuals is crucial.
A final aspect of the mental aspect of swimming is the swimmer’s approach to the sport. At Osprey, the sport is fundamentally a recreational activity. The Osprey swimmers are told not to let swimming dictate the swimmer’s perceived self worth. While swimming can open many doors in life, at the end of the day nobody at their core is a swimmer. Individuals are composed of their beliefs and how they treat others, not by how many races they win or what time they swam in a fifty free last Tuesday. The other important element of the Osprey approach is that swimming is not an individual sport. Osprey swimmers together form a team with a common purpose. Osprey swimmers make a commitment to their teammates that they will work to the best of their abilities, and by doing so push the team as a whole to higher levels. Each swimmer has a responsibility to every other swimmer on the team. This sense of an Osprey community serves to add purpose and motivation to training.
While physical and mental training may seem like separate entities, at Osprey they are not. Mental and physical elements are mutually supportive and mutually destructive. One cannot function without the other. Impressive physical accomplishments can fuel confidence, and positive thoughts can generate performance. Conversely poor physical outputs can generate negative thoughts, and bad thoughts can crush performance. Therefore, as recognized by the Osprey coaches, neither aspect of training can succeed without the other. Members of the swimming community may dispute that both what percent of swimming is mental versus physical, but few coaches address both sides of the sport like the coaches at Osprey Aquatics.